Porta Alpina, the Gotthard train station project will see the light of day !

Sedrun, canton of Graubünden, SwitzerlandThe “Porta Alpina” project received the agreement of the Swiss government!What is “Porta Alpina”?This is the brilliant idea to transform the rescue stop of the future “Gotthard Base Tunnel”, which is located at the middle of the tunnel and 800 meters under the mountain, into a real public train station connected to the surface with lifts which are currently used as an access for the workers!

The boring of the “Gotthard Base Tunnel” started in 1996 and is planned to be finished in 2011. It will be the longest tunnel in the world with a length of 57 kilometers!

Today, 53 % of the tunnel is excavated.

The tunnel will link Bodio (330 m), Ticino, to Erstfeld (472 m), Uri, it will allow the trains to link Zürich to Milano without climbing the Gotthard.

The middle of the tunnel is exactly located 800 meters under Sedrun in the Surselva valley.

The “Porta Alpina” future train station (550 m) will allow the passengers of the Zürich – Milano line to transfer to the Brig – Chur – St Moritz line (Glacier Express) simply by taking a lift to the Sedrun (1404 m) train station at the surface of the mountain!

Today to make the same connection, the trains use the historical old Gotthard tunnel; the passengers must stop at Göschenen (1106 m) with a transfer to the rack train Göschenen – Andermatt (1447 m) and to transfer to the line Brig – Andermatt – Chur – St Moritz (Glacier Express).

“Porta Alpina” official site.
“Gotthard Base Tunnel official site.


(The Gotthard Base Tunnel with the future Porta Alpina train station. On the left the temporary funicular)

At Sedrun, a one cabin temporary funicular railway was built to take the workers from their temporary camp to the construction site and to the 800 m vertical access shaft which is used to reach the construction tunnel. This two lifts will be transformed into two 80 passengers lifts for the “Porta Alpina” future train station.

See also my web page about this funicular.


(Sedrun, the temporary funicular)

7 thoughts on “Porta Alpina, the Gotthard train station project will see the light of day !”

  1. Although “Porta Alpina” looks like a brilliant idea at first sight, I do hope that it will never be built (and besides, it’s still quite far from ‘seeing the light of day’ … the swiss parliament doesn’t share the enthusiasm of our government). The purpose of the new Gotthard base tunnel is to make train connections between the big cities in the north and the south faster. Now, if high speed trains will stop in the middle of the tunnel to serve some villages in the mountains above, the main purpose of the tunnel will considerably suffer. High speed trains will be slower, and the capacity of the tunnel will be lower.

    In France, TGV trains don’t stop near small villages! The idea doesn’t make sense (except for hotel owners in the Surselva).

    There’s a debate in Switzerland about the best way to distribute scarce taxpayer’s money. Urgent projects such as a new underground station in Zurich or the CEVA connection in Geneve are in danger. Therefore, I think it’s more intelligent to spend the money for these very important projects than for a splendid idea which is not really necessary.

    Nonetheless, I’d like to thank you for your outstanding work and look forward to reading upcoming stories!

  2. I have the same fear, but I have not decided my opinion yet.

    Anyway, I hope that at least, during the construction of the tunnel the option of building it in the future remains.

    A station with two tracks per directions would be nice, but more expensive and there will be problems with the switches – more than 160 km/h as far I know they cannot handle.

    An anonymous Swiss.

  3. I live in Sedrun. AlpTransit = brilliant idea, brilliantly executed. Porta Alpina on paper and after a few beers sounds great, but once you start to dig (!) under the surface, there are so many questions. I used to be all for it, but now that I live (and partly work) in Sedrun (laughably described as an economically depressed, isolated corner of eastern Switzerland in a remote alpine valley by some twats) I can see that not only would the money be better spent on more sustainable “regenerative” projects, but the PA project could actively detract from the area’s amenities and culture.

    In a nutshell, PA would suck in a vast amount of (ecologically disastrous) vehicular traffic, totally distort the existing finely balanced property equilibrium (Sedrun is already experiencing a mini-boom of (hopefully now disappointed) spectulators), and if it benefited anyone wishing to get to the Unterland or Italy quickly (how quick is debatable in view of the logistics involved in actually getting to the main tunnel bores), those people would only live between Tschamut and, say, Illanz. Why? Because anyone living further east than Illanz would be quicker taking the MGB railway down to Chur and changing there for Zurich. And the next residential stop west after Tschamut is Andermatt, which will be way beyond any purported benefit of the PA.

    Add to this poisonous mix:
    • Canton Graubunden’s plan to bring in TGVs direct from Paris to Chur (starting December, initially once a week)
    • The whacky and (in my opinion) misguided Sawiris/Orascom project in Andermatt
    • The plan by the Federal Railways to divest themselves of the original Gotthard line (Erstfeld-Biasco) in 2020…

    … and you soon have a vast and highly convoluted game of 3-D chess. My opinion? The alps, their valleys and the communities that live and work there ‘are what they are’. Let them find their own levels organically (albeit, as always, with plenty of Federal aid) and stop trying to pimp them into being what they’re not.

    And I haven’t even started on the specifics as to why PA is a half-baked concept:

    • major temperature/humidity differences between the tunnels and winter alpine climate
    • what will new arrivals actually do in Sedrun – ski? Don’t make me laugh – this isn’t Zermatt, it’s a minor sideshow, perfect for the local Swiss, but very much Z-list compared to proper resorts
    • Walk in summer? I walk all summer long the length and breadth of Surselva and rarely meet a soul – these people won’t come here for the walking
    • “Experience the longest tunnel, the tallest lift” blah blah: ever been in a rail tunnel and wanted to write a postcard home about it? I thought not. And that lift – it’s a vertical tunnel. Nothing to see. It’s not like you’re going up the Eiffel Tower with its views. Total red herring. And when you finally surface (which could well be at least half-an-hour after you alighted from your train owing to the complex logistics down there), you end up not on top of a mountain as so many people seem to think, but about 3 metres above the level of the young Anterior Rhine, at the bed of the valley. You then need to get out of that valley up to Sedrun… etc, etc, etc. Even I’m getting bored by now 😉
    • er…

    So there you have it. Superficially interesting, but ultimately a no-goer. By all means keep whatever infrastructure is already there, by all means mothball the project for some future eventuality, but please let’s not get carried away in the wash of hype.

    PS: One oft-quoted argument against the PA scheme is the fear that trains stopping there will slow down the throughput of passenger expresses and high-speed goods services. I’ve seen the projections, and I don’t think those arguments hold water. Especially in the event that only a very few trains actually stop at the PA station owing to lack of demand! And therein lies the rub: Each of those few passengers will be costing a vast amount to the federal, cantonal and municipal tax payers.

    They’re not worth it.

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